Hot Smoking Pacific And Atlantic Salmon

hot smoked salmon on a plate

As an avid fisherman and lover of smoked salmon, I’ve spent countless hours experimenting with different methods to achieve the perfect flavor and texture.

After much trial and error, I can confidently say that hot smoking is the best way to prepare salmon.

Hot smoking involves cooking the fish at a low temperature over a fire or hot coals, infusing it with a smoky flavor while also retaining its moisture.

To achieve the best results, it’s important to start with high-quality salmon. Look for fresh, wild-caught salmon that is firm to the touch and has a bright, vibrant color.

Once you have your salmon, it’s time to prepare it for smoking. I recommend brining the fish for a few hours beforehand to enhance its flavor and texture. You can use a simple salt and sugar brine or experiment with different herbs and spices to create your own unique blend. After brining, rinse the salmon thoroughly and pat it dry with paper towels.

When it comes to smoking the salmon, there are a few key factors to keep in mind. You’ll want to use a smoker that can maintain a temperature between 180-220°F, and choose a wood that will complement the flavor of the salmon, such as alder, maple, or hickory. It’s also important to monitor the internal temperature of the fish to ensure it’s fully cooked but still moist and tender. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to hot smoke salmon like a pro and enjoy its delicious flavor any time of year.

Understanding Hot Smoking

What Is Hot Smoking?

Hot smoking is a cooking method that involves smoking food at a temperature of 165 to 185°F (74 to 85°C). This method is different from cold smoking, which is done at a temperature below 100°F (38°C). Hot smoking is a popular method for cooking salmon, as it not only adds a smoky flavor to the fish, but also cooks it to perfection.

Hot smoking involves exposing the fish to smoke for a period of time until it is fully cooked. The fish is placed in a smoker, which is a device that generates smoke using wood chips or pellets. The smoke is then circulated around the fish, infusing it with flavor and cooking it at the same time.

When hot smoking salmon, it is important to use the right type of wood chips or pellets. Different types of wood can impart different flavors to the fish, so it is important to choose the right one. Some popular types of wood for smoking salmon include apple, cherry, and hickory.

In addition to the right type of wood, it is also important to use the right amount of smoke. Too much smoke can overpower the flavor of the fish, while too little smoke can result in a bland taste. It is important to find the right balance to achieve the perfect flavor.

Overall, hot smoking is a great way to cook salmon. With the right equipment and techniques, you can achieve a delicious and flavorful result every time.

I found a lot of information that I use for my hot smoking on Restaurant Garzon including a step by step guide.

Preparation of Salmon for Smoking

Choosing the Right Salmon

When it comes to hot smoking salmon, the first step is to choose the right type of salmon. For best results, I recommend using wild-caught salmon, as it tends to have a better flavor and texture than farmed salmon. Additionally, it’s important to choose salmon that is fresh and firm to the touch, with no signs of discoloration or sliminess.

Another factor to consider when choosing salmon for smoking is the cut. While any cut of salmon can be used for smoking, I find that thicker cuts, such as the center-cut or fillet, work best. These cuts are less likely to dry out during the smoking process and have a more consistent texture.

Before smoking the salmon, it’s important to remove any bones and scales. This can be done using a pair of tweezers or a fish scaler. Once the salmon is prepared, it’s ready to be seasoned and smoked.

Hot Smoking Process

Temperature Control

To hot smoke salmon, I first prepare my smoker by preheating it to 225°F. Maintaining a consistent temperature is crucial to achieving perfectly smoked salmon.

I use an electric smoker with a digital temperature control to ensure accuracy. If you’re using a charcoal smoker, you’ll need to monitor the temperature closely and adjust the vents accordingly.

Once the smoker has reached the desired temperature, I place the salmon on the grates and close the lid. I continue to monitor the temperature throughout the smoking process to ensure it stays between 200-250°F. If the temperature drops too low, I add more wood chips to the smoker to maintain the heat.

Smoking Duration

The smoking duration for salmon can vary depending on the thickness of the fillet and personal preference. As a general rule of thumb, I smoke salmon for 1-2 hours. Thinner fillets may only need 1 hour of smoking time, while thicker fillets may require up to 2 hours.

During the smoking process, I periodically check the salmon to ensure it is cooking evenly. I also use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the salmon. The salmon is fully cooked and safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F.

Overall, the hot smoking process is a simple and delicious way to prepare salmon. With proper temperature control and smoking duration, you can achieve perfectly smoked salmon every time.

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Post-Smoking Steps

Resting the Salmon

Once you have finished smoking your salmon, it is important to allow it to rest before serving. This will give the flavors time to fully develop and the salmon time to cool down to a more enjoyable temperature.

To rest the salmon, remove it from the smoker and place it on a wire rack or cutting board. Allow it to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. This will also help any excess moisture to evaporate, resulting in a firmer texture and more concentrated flavor.

After the salmon has rested, you can serve it immediately or store it for later use. If you plan on storing it, make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate it as soon as possible.

Overall, resting your hot smoked salmon is a crucial step in the smoking process that should not be overlooked. Taking the time to properly rest your salmon will result in a more flavorful and enjoyable final product.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


One of the most common mistakes when hot smoking salmon is overcooking it. Overcooking will result in dry, tough, and flavorless salmon. To avoid this, it is important to monitor the temperature of the smoker and the internal temperature of the salmon. The ideal temperature for hot smoking salmon is between 200°F and 225°F. The internal temperature of the salmon should reach 145°F. Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the salmon is cooked to the right temperature.

Choosing the Wrong Wood

Another common mistake when hot smoking salmon is choosing the wrong type of wood. The type of wood used for smoking can greatly affect the flavor of the salmon.

Some woods, such as hickory and mesquite, can be too strong and overpower the delicate flavor of the salmon. On the other hand, fruitwoods like apple and cherry can add a subtle sweetness that complements the salmon. I recommend using fruitwoods or alder for smoking salmon.

To summarize, overcooking and choosing the wrong wood are common mistakes when hot smoking salmon. To avoid overcooking, monitor the temperature of the smoker and the internal temperature of the salmon. To avoid choosing the wrong wood, use fruitwoods or alder for smoking salmon.

David Patterson

David Patterson is a seasoned BBQ enthusiast with a wealth of experience in the world of grilling. With a passion for the art of barbecuing, he has spent countless hours testing various grills and exploring new recipes. David’s extensive knowledge and expertise make him a go-to resource for all things BBQ-related. Read more about David Patterson.

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